{April 11, 2012}   The perfect pot

Have you ever thrown a pot? I missed out on the opportunity to use a pottery wheel to turn a hunk of clay into a functional piece of art when I was in school. But I’m lucky to have a generous sister-in-law who is a talented art teacher. Lisa and her son took a few hours during spring break to give me and my boys a pottery lesson.

Here are a few things I learned:

1. Patrick Swayze does not miraculously appear when you turn on the pottery wheel, even if you hum “Unchained Melody.”  But the school custodian might, so hum quietly.

2. Throwing a pot is just as much fun as it looks. It’s messy, slippery and amazing to be able to transform a simple hunk of clay into a practical object, whether it be a vase, bowl or cup.

3. Throwing a perfect pot is harder than it looks. It requires strength, technique and patience. But it’s also very forgiving. Even without those skills, a beginner can create something worth keeping, especially when guided by good instructors.

4. Sometimes, you need to leave well enough alone. I made an adequate vase, but in trying to make it better, I ruined it and had to toss it out. With another piece of clay, I created a small vessel that could be turned into a mug if I added a handle. But in an effort to make it perfect, I made it worse, so it ended up becoming a shallow bowl. A perfectly fine shallow bowl. My third piece of clay had to be tossed out as well; I was trying too hard.

5. When trying something new, it’s best to leave your expectations at the door. Dylan said his favorite part of the experience was that he could make whatever he wanted. He didn’t have a plan; he just got his hands on the clay and was happy with the two cups and bowl he created. My last piece of clay was bigger than the rest. I was determined to make a vase.  But I didn’t get it centered, so it quickly became lopsided. After several more minutes, I had turned it a serviceable bowl. A few minutes later, it had become a small plate.  A plate that once fired will remind me to enjoy the experience and not focus on the outcome.


Mike B. says:

There is a line in a Sherlock Holmes story that addresses this very subject and that I try to remember when needed. He identified the “that supreme gift of the artist” as being “the knowledge of when to stop.”

BTW, is “throwing” a technical/artistic term? When you referenced “throwing a pot” my mind went to “wet clay fights!” And you all looked too clean for that to be right….

Great quote…and that explains why I’m not an artist.

Yes, throwing a pot is a technical term. If you’d like to know why, here’s an article explaining it.

FYI: Wet clay fights are not yet on my list of new things to try, but the Dirty Girl Mud Run is. Should be fun…and not too clean.

Mike B. says:

Wow… that’s more explanation that I expected/was looking for… I think I’m on the Texans’ side on this one. I did a paper on Old English (which you would probably see as entirely fitting) in college and modern English is challenging enough for me. But as a rival, you’d no doubt sympathize (he said, using the Old English meaning of the word “rival” …)

Kelly says:

LoveLoveLove it!!!!

Thank you, sweet girl!

tina says:

“..the school custodian might.” HA! Good warning.
I remember all of these struggles trying to throw a pot in school and still have a couple little bowls I made. Rarely did I achieve centering. I was like The Jerk trying to have good rhythm.

LOL at the Jerk, Tina. Throwing a pot really isn’t as easy as it looks. And even if a creation isn’t perfect, it’s still cool to have made it yourself!

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